Some deals across the Grand Strand might be too good to pass up.
For local residents and regular visitors, season passes afford another way of stretching out enjoyment of some major signature attractions, to bask in scenery and history, make a splash, ride go-carts, putt some colorful golf balls, and revel in reptiles, fish and other animals.
At Huntington Beach State Park, sales of S.C. State Park Service “Passport” annual passes have climbed by several hundred in each of the last four years, said J.W. Weatherford, the park’s assistant manager. The number of passes sold at Huntington Beach were 3,179 in 2010; 3,857 in 2011; 4,649 in 2012; and 5,134 in 2013.
Weatherford said the coastal parks stand tall in sales of “Passports,” which for $75 or $99, grant buyers access to all 47 state park sites for a whole year. He said Huntington Beach and Myrtle Beach state parks ranked first and second in total Passports sold last year, with Hunting Island State Park, southeast of Beaufort, at the end of U.S. 21, “as a close” third.
The three aforementioned parks, along with Charles Towne Landing State, on a marsh off the Ashley River in Charleston, “account for 76 percent of all Passports sold statewide,” Weatherford said.
“That really shows that the best bang for your buck is the parks on our coast,” he said. “Our locals are lucky to live in such a wonderful area that boasts these diverse natural and cultural resources that are entrusted to the S.C. State Park Service to proudly serve as responsible stewards over.”
Across U.S. 17 from Huntington Beach State Park, at Brookgreen Gardens, annual memberships provide incentive for getting people back all year long into the gardens, which boast a different beauty or character in every season.
Helen Benso, Brookgreen’s vice president of marketing, said member passes remain “very popular.”
“We reach new records each year in the number of households that purchases them,” she said.
A nominal price increase in its basic membership tiers took effect March 1, “the first time in eight years,” Benso said, yet stressing they’re staying “an excellent value.” Individual memberships rose $5 to $65, and family passes went up $10 to $100.
These annual passes also treat guests to many festivals included with admission, such as the “Diggin’ It” Spring Garden Festival,” March 22, and “Cool Summer Evenings,” when the gardens stay open until 9 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, June 11-Aug. 8. Members also gain discounts on other calendar staples such as “Nights of a Thousand Candles,” for three weekends starting Dec. 4.
Benso also voiced why joining the gardens lets guests bloom with the urge to return.
“Visitors usually come to the gardens and fall in love with all the art, history and beautifully landscaped areas,” she said. “While they are here, they learn about how affordable a membership is and can purchase one then. They receive up to two admissions credit – $28 – toward the cost of their membership when they purchase it onsite, so it’s even a better deal.”
Brookgreen officials aren’t waiting for spring to start officially. The gardens’ new Sensory and Nature Trail opens Saturday, next to the Enchanted Storybook Forest, with 12 hands-on learning stations where children explore and learn facts about their environment at their own pace.
Adults also might walk away wiser from some of the trail stops, as well, pondering such questions as “What are mosquitoes good for?” and true or false: “If a worm is cut in half, both ends will become a live worm.” Visit the gardens to find out.
Annual S.C. State Park Passports come in four options, all good for 12 months:
•Statewide Park Passport for $75
| good at all 47 state parks (and state historic sites such as Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, off U.S. 17 near McClellanville).
•Park Passport Plus for $99
| good at all 47 locations, with some free benefits such as some nature/education programs that otherwise incur small fees, and free admission to Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park, house tours at Hampton Plantation (for as many as four people), and the lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park.
•Palmetto Passport for $37.50
| for S.C. seniors 65 and older, as well as residents with blindness or other disabilities.
•Inland Park Passport for $50
| for access to 42 inland state parks, excluding the five coastal area parks: Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach, Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, as well as Edisto Beach and Hunting Island. (Also “Seven-Day Passport” available, for $35, for one week.)
Both local state parks are open every day of the year:
• Huntington Beach State Park, on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. through April 6, then until 10 p.m. through Nov. 2, on U.S. 17 between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, across from Brookgreen Gardens. 237-4440. Reach the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park at 650-6666 orwww.huntingtonbeachstatepark.com
• Myrtle Beach State Park, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on U.S. 17 Business, one mile south of Farrow Parkway/South Ocean Boulevard, across from Seagate Village. Details at 238-5325 orwww.myrtlebeachsp.com
More state park details from 803-734-0156 or www.southcarolinaparks.com.
On U.S. 17 between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, this historic parcel of flora and fauna offers two basic membership options, both good for 12 months:
Individual, for $65, and Household, for $100 – including discounts for gift shop and all food venues, discounted admission tickets for guests, two complimentary one-visit guest passes to pass along to friends or family, and all Brookgreen member publications and e-newsletters.
Also, four more membership tiers each come with additional perks such as more complimentary one-visit guest passes, and upon request, free tickets for “Nights of a Thousand Candles” in December – President’s Council, for $275, Chairman’s Council $1,000, Huntington Society $2,500, and Atalaya Council $5,000.
Details at 235-6000, 800-849-1931 or www.brookgreen.org.
Two of the three water parks, which all operate in summer only, sell season passes, each coming with discounts for food and beverages bought on site:
• Wild Water & Wheels, 910 U.S. Business S., Surfside Beach, opening May 23: Passes for ages 3 and older: Full park pass, including unlimited go-carts, bumper boats and miniature golf, for $124.90 online, or $134.90; and water park only, for $84.95 online, or $94.95. No charge for parking. 238-3787 orwww.wild-water.com
• Myrtle Waves, at U.S. 17 Bypass and 10th Avenue North Extension, Myrtle Beach, opening May 17 for weekends, then daily as of June 6: Season passes, plus taxes, are $69.99 online, otherwise $79.99, and the pass includes “Bring-A-Friend” discounted admission days, and free parking. Details at 918-8725 orwww.myrtlewaves.com
Also available: a “Two-Park Pass,” with NASCAR SpeedPark, up the road at 1820 21st Ave. N. Extension, at U.S. 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach, across from the Palace Theatre and Broadway at the Beach. It opened March 1 for 2014, going through Dec. 28, is $94.99 plus tax online, otherwise $99.99. The SpeedPark has two other passes, in intervals of 31 and 120 days, for, plus tax, $34.99 and $54.99 online, respectively, otherwise $39.99 and $59.99. Details at 918-8725 or www.nascarspeedpark.com/sc.aspx.
Five sister miniature golf courses in Myrtle Beach city limits share a season pass for $70, good for all five courses, through year’s end:
• Jungle Safari Mini Golf, 7101 N. Kings Highway; 315-0311.
• Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf, 2205 N. Kings Highway; 913-7851.
• Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf, at Broadway at the Beach; 913-9301.
• Jurassic Golf, 2900 S. Kings Highway; 913-5333.
• Shipwreck Island Adventure Golf, 3301 Adventure Golf, at South Kings Highway; 913-5330.
Details at 424-0181 or www.myrtlebeachfamilygolf.com.
Animals await you
Take a walk for up-close looks at wildlife:
• Alligator Adventure – a special zoo at Barefoot Landing, on U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach, with reptiles and other animals native to the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia, including birds, big cats, lemurs, and new for 2014, white wolves. It’s open 10 a.m.-4 pm. daily this month.
Season passes, plus tax, are $49.99 ages 13 and older, $37.99 ages 4-12. (Daily admission is $19.99 ages 13 and older, $17.99 seniors, $14.99 ages 4-12, free ages 3 and younger – and second-day-free pass available for return within seven days.) Special shows daily on tigers 9:30 a.m.; reptiles at 10 a.m., noon and 2, 4, 6 , 8 and 10 p.m.; alligator feedings at 11 a.m. and 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m.; and lemurs 10:30 p.m. Details at 361-0789 or www.alligatoradventure.com.
• Ripley’s Aquarium, on 29th Avenue North at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, open at 9 a.m. daily, and open till 7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, and 6 p.m. Sundays. Annual passes, plus tax, are $49.99 ages 12 and older, $28.99 ages 6-11, and $12.99 ages 2-5, with a discount on renewals by $10 and $3 in the first two age groups, respectively.